On Cuphead and selectable Difficulty

Hoo boy, did I take a topic to start of this blog. Anyways, here we go.


If you don’t know, Cuphead was released in September 2017, and is a retro run-and-gun style platformer. It is very reminicent of titles like Megaman or Contra for those who have played them, and combines that with 1930s era Western Cartoons for designs. To say this game appeals to Nostalgia is an understatement.

What stood out even more for Cuphead was the way the game handles difficulty. Notably, the game is fairly hard. I don’t want to get into details of how hard the game truely is, but the high difficulty level was noted by many players. The reason this is getting so much discussion is however the way the game presents its difficulty:

And before any of you start to complain, yes I know there is a post-game Expert Mode

Now you may wonder what I mean. Fact of the matter is, the Simple Difficulty is actually more of a practice mode, meaning it won’t let you progress the game. You only can get to the end of the game and beat it if you beat every boss on regular difficulty. This, essentially means that the game is always going to be hard, and there is no way around it other than playing the game that way or finding someone offering cheesy hacks on shady websites.

Now, the talk about Simple Mode is what I don’t get. Letting you progress with that isn’t going to solve anything for people with accessibility issues – besides, if you beat a level in Simple Mode the game very clearly tells you that you have to re-do the level in Regular Mode to get ahead. If you really wanted to make sure that players, even those with severe disabilities, have a shot at beating the game, you’d need something like New Super Mario Bros. U’s Super Guide.

Super Guide
If you can’t beat a level, Luigi can do it for you.

Talk like this upsets many a gamer, that it would ruin the spirit of the game if you could pretty much auto-pilot through any level, but personally, I think a Super Guide is a better solution to this issue than an easy mode. Super Guide isn’t a difficulty, it’s a hard opt-in way to skip something you can’t or don’t want to beat. I’m gonna elaborate my point by asking you, what is the right difficulty for you: Easy, Normal or Hard?

Not so easy to answer for many. The thing with custom difficulty levels is that they are rarely ever used extensively by players. Some players will refuse to bump down the difficulty, get frustrated and quit a game, some will breeze through the game on a too easy difficulty and not be motivated to replay large sections of the game on a higher difficulty level. So even including difficulty levels is a dicey thing, especially if they don’t get tested well enough.

So yeah, all power to a Super Guide for Cuphead. Have it disable Achievements so the try-hards still have something they can be proud of, or add some small easter eggs for players on regular. Ultimately, what does it bother a hardcore player for a game to have an instant solution for someone who doesn’t want to or can’t beat the game? Most games have almost all their content posted to YouTube within days. Difference is however that the developer can get more money if people can watch the game from within the game.


Thanks for reading and see you around!

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